TR: New Army Pass-Rock Creek-Cottonwood Pass 5/25-27/2013 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: New Army Pass-Rock Creek-Cottonwood Pass 5/25-27/2013

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TR: New Army Pass-Rock Creek-Cottonwood Pass 5/25-27/2013

Postby jimmeans » Fri May 31, 2013 1:38 pm

We went for 2 night outing over Memorial Day weekend using the Cottonwood Lake TH. Starting Saturday at about 9AM we went up the South Fork trail and then XC'd from South Fork Lake to the main trail. The weather was beautiful for hiking with temperatures in the 50s. We reached the base of New Army Pass at about 1PM, and started up.

Here is a photo from the climb to the pass:

Looking back at High Lake, Long Lake, and South Fork Lakes

When we picked up the permit the ranger told us that there was still a little snow at the top of New Army Pass but that somebody had cut steps into it. We also had reports from hikers descending from Mt Langley that the pass was not much of a problem. I like to take a lot of photos when I hike, but I've finally noticed that when I'm approaching something like a pass I seem to forget to take them. I guess my mind focus goes to the problem solving mode and things like taking documentary photos go to the back of the line. Bottom line is that the next photo I have is after making it to the top.

What we did find at the top of the pass was that indeed it appeared that somebody had cut steps into the last traverse to the top, but nobody was using them. Instead everybody was stopping in front of the big rock and then climbing over some small rocks around the right side of the big rock. Piece of pie.

Wade on top of New Army Pass, Mt. W in the background

We descended the north side of the pass and then followed the trail west to the junction with the Siberian Pass - Soldier Lake Trail where we camped. The campsite there has been pretty heavily used, but there is water and a good sittin' log. My Kestrel says it got down to 28 overnight.

View to Mt Guyot and the Kaweahs during descent from New Army Pass

Sunday morning we took our time getting packed up, but eventually we started towards Soldier Lakes. Since we are both very amateur golfers, we both made comments about the condition of the fairways.


We spent some time exploring the Soldier Lakes area. There were a lot of fish breaking the surface on lower Soldier Lake, and on it's inlet stream we saw fish exhibiting spawning behavior.

Lower Soldier Lake

We then hiked down to Rock Creek Lake, and again there were a LOT of swimmers in the inlet to this lake. We continued a short distance further and decided to break for lunch.

Rock Creek picnic

We had discussed taking a cross country route south to the PCT instead of following Rock Creek all the way down to the PCT junction. At our break spot was what appeared to be an old stock crossing. There was an old log with a nail in it where it looked like a sign had been, and you could see the cuts in the banks and an obvious trail heading up the other side. We crossed the Rock Creek at this point and followed it downstream on its south side until we hit the next meadow about 3/4 of a mile below Rock Creek Lake. Then we turned directly SE and I practiced my dead reckoning as we headed up the canyon wall.

Looking across Rock Creek canyon to Joe Devel Peak

As we neared the top of this climb we came across one of the biggest rabbits I've ever seen in the wild. And he wasn't too concerned about our presence.

Big enough to take on a mountain lion?

After about an hour we reached the PCT and turned towards Cottonwood Pass. A while later we reached the Sentinel. Looking back we could see the bad weather that Chicken Little had warned about trying to climb over the Great Western Divide. Fortunately the view was about as bad as the weather got for the weekend.

The Sentinel

We stopped at the spring that is about 1/2 mile outside the national park to camp for the night. Again it's an overused site, but water is a big plus. We could have probably made it the rest of the way out that day, but then we would have had to go home. We camped as far from the trail as we could to get away from the more abused campsites. It only got down to 33 overnight on Sunday.

Monday morning we got off to a better start and made our way towards Cottonwood Pass. Again it was a beautiful day for a hike.

Olancha Peak

We made it back to the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead in about 4 hours. Other than being a little chilly at night the weather was great, and there were not any flying pests anywhere. I was in this area last year at the end of June, and the water levels in the streams seemed much like last year. I would get to the mountains soon, because it's going to be really dry by the end of the summer.

To top of it off we visited the Frosty Chalet in Lone Pine which has reopened after being closed for 10 years.
Last edited by jimmeans on Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:41 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: TR: New Army Pass-Rock Creek-Cottonwood Pass 5/25-27/2013

Postby maverick » Fri May 31, 2013 2:11 pm

Thanks Jim for the wonderful photo's and update on all these areas. That jack rabbit
is big!
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member:
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Re: TR: New Army Pass-Rock Creek-Cottonwood Pass 5/25-27/2013

Postby cloudlesssky » Fri May 31, 2013 9:09 pm

Thanks for the pics Jim!
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TR: New Army Pass-Rock Creek-Cottonwood Pass 5/25-27/2013

Postby Bluewater » Fri May 31, 2013 9:14 pm

Thanks for the update on the area. I've been hoping to get over into Miter Basin soon.
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